Pain is a puzzling thing. While we often know exactly what is causing knee, elbow, back, neck, or other nagging or even debilitating pain, some of the toughest injuries have no explicit cause. Old injuries, new strains, muscle or ligament damage; one small tweak in one place in your body can have a seismic effect in some other part.
One of the most common instances of this scenario is linking spinal misalignment to knee pain. At first glance, it may seem unlikely; how does your back influence your knees, and vice versa. When chiropractors talk about alignment, that idea doesn’t stop at your tailbone. Your body’s alignment goes from your head to your toes, and the location of your knees means that it can be influenced by many things both above and below.
When dealing with knee pain, it’s important to talk with a specialist to identify structural damage or injuries to the joint. If no demonstrable issues are present, we’re strong advocates that patients extend that examination to the spine. It’s happened before; surgeons will recommend a full knee replacement when there is nothing wrong with the knee’s ligaments and tendons, and the real cause, located in the spine, goes untreated!
There are a few signs that indicate your knee pain is caused or exacerbated by spinal misalignment.
Your Knees Hurt...And So Does Your Back
This one is key. Back issues can often ‘refer’ pain to other parts of your body. A pinched nerve or bulging disc can express itself as a pain symptom both locally in the spine and to other parts of the body. We most often see this pain referral in office workers. If you sit at a desk, that position often compresses the spine. Pair that with static leg positions and your pain spreads easily.
Your hamstrings are incredibly strong, tight muscles that run from the bottom of your glutes to a series of ligaments in the back of your knee. These are the muscles that may feel tight or stretched when you bend over and touch your toes; just where your muscles feel tight can change based on the activities or lack of activities you partake in.
Even active athletes who spend time stretching and improving their flexibility can struggle with their hamstrings. It’s even more of a challenge for less active people, or those who may already have pain issues that affect their flexibility. Having tight hamstrings over a long period of time, usually a few weeks or even a few months, can cause damage to the knee’s meniscus. This damage can cause inflammation that just won’t go away until you’ve addressed your flexibility issues. That flexibility can be affected by lumbar issues, including specific points in the spine like the L5 that have a big influence on the spine’s movement.
Reinforcing the idea of alignment, your back can actually influence muscle development in the foot! How you walk or run dicates where you put your weight and pressure; back and abdominal muscles, your posture, and your activity levels can completely shape that muscle structure. Your back essentially shapes your foot, from muscles to ligaments, even the formation of bunions! Having a strong, supportive core and back helps prevent putting your knees in the middle of the knee and foot relationship.
Need help determining the source of your back and joint pain? Whether you’re seeking a first-look or a second opinion, talk to Dr. Bill at Core Health and Wellness today!